Washington D.C. [U.S.A.], Oct 4 : The United States Defence Secretary James Mattis openly contradicted the United States President Donald Trump's position on the Iran nuclear deal while testifying in front of Congress, by backing the nuclear deal with Iran and saying it is in the interests of national security to maintain it.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Mattis was asked whether he believed it was currently in the US national security interest to remain in the agreement.
After a significant pause, he replied, "Yes, senator, I do."
Mattis's remarks comes after U.S. President Trump has been hinting for months that he is ready to take steps to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal as a crucial October deadline approaches that could decide the fate of the agreement.
Under the relevant legislation, the administration has to certify whether Iran is in material breach of the agreement, or if the deal is not serving the national interest.
In a statement in August, Trump said Iran is "not in compliance with the agreement and they certainly are not in the spirit of the agreement in compliance," and in September he called the agreement an "embarrassment" during a speech to the United Nations.
At the same hearing, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James Dunford said, Iran "is not in material breach of" the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and affirmed that its implementation has "delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran."
Last week, Dunford said the U.S. should uphold the agreement, in the absence of a clear Iranian breach, or risk losing credibility when it came to signing future agreements.
Trump has repeatedly lambasted the JCPOA - one of the most important foreign policy legacies of his predecessor, Barack Obama - most recently at the U.N. general assembly last month.
"Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States and I don't think you have heard the last of it, believe me," Trump said, raising expectations that he would not endorse the agreement.
Under the U.S. law, Trump has until October 15 to certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. If he declines to certify Iran, then Congress will have the option to re-impose sanctions on Iran, which would effectively end the deal.
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